Archives For Maryland

Philip Abramowitz, 50, Pikesville, Maryland, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in relation to the sale of two Baltimore properties.

According to his guilty plea, from May 2016 to April 2017, Abramowitz and others conspired to defraud two financial institutions by fraudulently obtaining Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans and property under false pretenses.  Specifically, Abramowitz used his company 163 N. Potomac St., LLC., to facilitate the fraudulent sales of his Potomac Street, Baltimore, Maryland properties.

For example, in May 2016, Abramowitz sold one of his Potomac Street properties (Property 1) to a family member (Relative 1) and entered into an agreement with Relative 1 to purchase the property using an FHA-insured loan.  The FHA is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provides mortgage insurance on loans made by FHA-approved lenders.  To qualify for the FHA-insured loans, the buyer must use the residence as their primary residence, disclose any familial or business relationship between the seller and buyer, and disclose the source of the money the buyer intends to use for the down payment and closing costs.

As stated in his guilty plea, Relative 1 applied for and received a $294,566 FHA-insured loan with a mortgage company (Mortgage Company 1) by falsely representing Abramowitz’s bank account records as his own.  Relative 1 and Abramowitz also concealed their familial relation from Mortgage Company 1 by submitting false company filings during the loan application process, having Abramowitz’s property manager (Property Manager 1) pose as the sole seller and manager of 163 N. Potomac St., LLC and arranging Property Manager 1 to sign the FHA-loan contact as the official seller of the property.  Abramowitz’s ownership of 163 N, Potomac St., LLC. or involvement in the sale was never disclosed.

To meet the requirements of the loan procurement process, Abramowitz gave Relative 1 $10,500 to pay for the closing costs for Property 1 as Relative 1 did not have the financial means to make the purchase.   Based on the fraudulent financial information presented during the loan application process, Mortgage Company 1 loaned Relative 1 $294,566 for the purchase of Property 1.  The majority of the loan proceeds were subsequently deposited into Abramowitz’s bank account.  Ultimately, Relative 1 never used Property 1 as a primary residence and rented the property to tenants for a year before ceasing mortgage payments and allowing the property to fall into foreclosure.

Further, Abramowitz arranged the sale of his second Potomac Street property (Property 2) in March 2017 to another family member (Relative 2) using an FHA-insured loan.  To facilitate the sale of Property 2, Relative 2 applied for an FHA-insured loan with another mortgage company (Mortgage Company 2).  Using the same manner to defraud Mortgage Company 1, Abramowitz concealed his familial relation to Relative 2, falsely listed his property manager as the sole seller and owner of Property 2 and submitted multiple fraudulent documents to Mortgage Company 2, including an LLC affidavit of title asserting that no other person or entity had ownership in Property 2.

In a similar manner as the sale of Property 1, Abramowitz violated FHA-loan requirements by providing Relative 2 $8,750 for the closing costs of the sale, misrepresented his own bank account information as Relative 2’s in the FHA-loan procurement process, and received the majority of the loan proceeds to his personal bank account.  Relative 2 never used Property 2 as a primary residence or paid monthly mortgage payments to Mortgage Company 2 which caused the property to fall into foreclosure.

Abramowitz faces a maximum of 30 years in prison followed up by 5 years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for August 9, 2022, at 2:30 p.m.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Shawn A. Rice of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General.

As part of his guilty plea, Abramowitz will be ordered to pay $373,684 in restitution.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HUD-OIG for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Clarke, who is prosecuting the federal case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

 

Philip Abramowitz, 50, Pikesville, Maryland, has been charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud and Calvin Abramowitz, 48, Lakewood, New Jersey, has been charges with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and for making false statements on a loan application.

According to the four-count indictment, from May 2016 to April 2017, Philip and Calvin Abramowitz conspired to defraud two financial institutions to obtain money and property under fraudulent pretenses.  Allegedly, Philip, Calvin Abramowitz, as well as others submitted mortgage applications totaling $535,448 to fund the purchase of two Baltimore, Maryland properties.  Allegedly, the loan applications contained false information that misrepresented the financing of the purchases and the ownership interests and intentions of the involved parties.

As alleged in the indictment, Philip Abramowitz instructed family members to apply for and receive Federal Housing Administration loans in their names in order to finance the purchase of two of his Baltimore properties.  Further, the indictment alleges that Philip and Calvin Abramowitz concealed Philip Abramowitz’s involvement in the real estate transactions and submitted false bank records and company filings during the loan application process to conceal the buyers’ and sellers’ familial relation.

Further, the indictment alleges that Philip Abramowitz falsified LLC records to create the illusion that his property manager was the sole owner of the selling entity in both property transactions and instructed his property manager to sign all closing documents as the “seller” to finalize the sales and the disbursement of loan proceeds.  In addition, the indictment alleges that Philip Abramowitz provided funds to Calvin Abramowitz to cover Calvin Abramowitz’s and another family members closing costs for both properties.

If convicted, Philip Abramowitz faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for bank fraud and 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud.  If convicted, Calvin Abramowitz faces a maximum sentence of 30 years for bank fraud, a maximum of 30 years for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and 30 in federal prison for making false statements on a loan application.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The defendants will have initial appearances on March 24, 2022, beginning at 1:30 p.m., in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Coulson.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Shawn Rice of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General.

 

An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HUD-OIG for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Clarke, who is prosecuting the federal case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https:

 

Tammy Jones, a/k/a “Tammy Taylor, 53, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pleaded guilty yesterday to wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme.

According to her guilty plea, in May 2011 Jones purchased a home in Brandywine, Maryland.  To finance the purchase of the home, Jones obtained a mortgage for $360,660 from Lender 1, which was backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

In 2017, Jones sought and received a loan modification for her FHA-insured mortgage through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Partial Claim Program, which is a loan modification program for FHA-insured mortgages.  As part of the Partial Claim Program, HUD works to restructure the borrower’s mortgage payments using a partial claim which allows the borrower to stay in the home.  A lender files a “partial claim” with HUD for a portion of the outstanding mortgage balance and HUD makes payment to the lender on behalf of the borrower for that portion of the mortgage.  In exchange, HUD receives a security interest in the property in the amount of the balance that was paid to the lender and the borrower agrees to repay HUD for the amount of the partial claim.  Thus, the lender is effectively “made whole” by the partial claim payment from HUD.  When the borrower sells the home, the borrower is ultimately responsible for the balance of the partial claim to remove the lien held by HUD.

As stated in her plea agreement, in or around June 2017, Jones sought and received a loan modification through the HUD Partial Claim Program for her Brandywine, Maryland home.  HUD made a partial claim payment to Servicer 1 (who serviced Jones’s FHA-insured mortgage) of $111,377.12 on behalf of Jones.  In exchange, Jones granted HUD a security interest in the Brandywine, Maryland property for $111,377.12, the amount of the partial claim payment made by HUD.  Jones also entered into a loan modification agreement with the mortgage lender, in which Jones owed $352,151.01 in principal and agreed to make monthly payments of $2,564.96.

In 2018, Jones sought to sell the Brandywine, Maryland property for $429,900.  To close the sale of the property, employees of a settlement company sought proof that Jones’s lien from HUD and the FHA had been released.

In fact, the lien had not been released.  Jones thereafter created false and fraudulent documents to make it appear as though the lien had been released in order to facilitate the sale of the Brandywine, Maryland home as part of the scheme.

Specifically, Jones created a fraudulent email account, purporting to be an employee of a company contracted by HUD to service loans on HUD’s behalf.  Jones, posing as an employee of the HUD contractor, told an employee of the settlement company that the lien on the Brandywine, Maryland home had been released and Jones created and attached a bogus lien release document.  Jones thereafter continued to contact the settlement company while posing as an employee of the HUD contractor.  Jones also submitted a fraudulent Certificate of Satisfaction to the settlement company, which permitted the sale of the Brandywine, Maryland property on or about October 19, 2018.

After the sale of the Brandywine, Maryland property closed, the induvial who purchased the home from Jones was notified of the outstanding lien on the property in 2019.  Investigation revealed that Jones had falsified documents and fraudulently posed as an employee of the HUD contractor in order to further her scheme to defraud HUD.

In total, Jones caused a net loss of $111,377.12 to HUD, which represents the partial claim that HUD paid on behalf of Jones in September 2017.

As part of her plea agreement, Jones will be required to pay $111,377.12 in restitution.

Jones faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison followed by up to three years of supervised release for wire fraud.  U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang has scheduled sentencing for May 20, 2022 at 2:30 p.m.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Bertrand Nelson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HUD-OIG for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Caitlin R. Cottingham, who is prosecuting the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

Marilyn J. Mosby, 41, Baltimore, Maryland, was indicted today on federal charges of perjury and making false mortgage applications, relating to the purchases of two vacation homes in Florida.

According to the four-count indictment, on May 26, 2020 and December 29, 2020, Mosby submitted “457(b) Coronavirus-Related Distribution Requests” for one-time withdrawals of $40,000 and $50,000, respectively, from City of Baltimore’s Deferred Compensation Plans.  In each request, the indictment alleges that Mosby falsely certified that she met at least one of the qualifications for a distribution as defined under the CARES Act, specifically, that she experienced adverse financial consequences from the Coronavirus as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, or laid off; having reduced work hours; being unable to work due to lack of childcare; or the closing or reduction of hours of a business she owned or operated.  In signing the forms, Mosby “affirm[ed] under penalties for perjury the statements and acknowledgments made in this request.”  The indictment alleges that Mosby did not experience any such financial hardships and in fact, Mosby received her full gross salary of $247,955.58 from January 1, 2020 through December 29, 2020, in bi-weekly gross pay direct deposits of $9,183.54.

Further, the indictment alleges that on July 28, 2020 and September 2, 2020, as well as on January 14, 2021 and February 19, 2021, Mosby made false statements in applications for a $490,500 mortgage to purchase a home in Kissimmee, Florida and for a $428,400 mortgage to purchase a condominium in Long Boat Key, Florida.  As part of both applications, Mosby was required to disclose her liabilities.  Mosby did not disclose on either application that she had unpaid federal taxes from a number of previous years and that on March 3, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had placed a lien against all property and rights to property belonging to Mosby and her husband in the amount of $45,022, the amount of unpaid taxes Mosby and her husband owed the IRS as of that date.  In each application, Mosby also responded “no” in response to the question, “Are you presently delinquent or in default on any Federal debt or any other loan, mortgage, financial obligation, bond, or loan guarantee,” even though she was delinquent in paying federal taxes to the IRS.

Finally, according to the indictment, one week prior to closing on the Kissimmee vacation home, on or about August 25, 2020, Mosby executed an agreement with a vacation home management company giving the management company control over the rental of the property she ultimately purchased in Kissimmee.  On September 2, 2020, Mosby signed a “second home rider” which provided, among other things, that the borrower occupy and use the property as their second home; that the borrower maintain exclusive control over the ownership of the property, including short-term rentals, and not subject the property to any…agreement that requires the borrower either to rent the property or give a management firm or any other person or entity any control over the occupancy or use of the property; and that the borrower keep the property available primarily as a residence for their personal use and enjoyment for at least one year, unless the lender otherwise agrees in writing.  The indictment alleges that by falsely executing the “second home rider” Mosby could obtain a lower interest rate on the mortgage for the property than she would have received without it.

If convicted, Mosby faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for each of two counts of perjury and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison for each of two counts of making false mortgage applications.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

The defendant will have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, but the hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Darrell J. Waldon of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI and IRS-CI for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise, Sean R. Delaney, and Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, who are prosecuting the federal case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

Franklin A. Olaitan, 48, Beltsville, Maryland, has been charged in a 10-count indictment with carrying out a scheme to steal a residence located in the District of Columbia and then reselling the property to an unsuspecting buyer.

As alleged in the indictment, Olaitan perpetrated a scheme in which he obtained a residential real property located in the 2000 block of First Street NW, District of Columbia by submitting false documents to lenders, a settlement company, and the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds. It is alleged that Olaitan quickly resold the residential property to an unsuspecting buyer and received the seller’s proceeds from both purported sales of the property.  In the real estate closings, first, a lender paid approximately $420,000 and, second, a purchaser paid about $550,000.

Olaitan is charged with four counts of wire fraud, two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, two counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of identity theft, and one count of first-degree fraud. The indictment includes a notification of the United States’ intent to seek the forfeiture of any proceeds Olaitan received as a result of the fraud scheme, identity theft, and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Olaitan was arraigned today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The indictment against him was also unsealed today.  He was released following his initial court appearance, pending further court proceedings.

The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Lucas of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, with assistance from Paralegal Specialists Daniel Haines and Mariela Andrade.

 

 

Mary Beyer Halsey, 59, Rising Sun, Maryland, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Cecil Bank, was sentenced today for charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, receipt of a bribe by a bank official, and false statement in bank records, in connection with the straw purchase of a home in Rising Sun, Maryland, upon which Cecil Bank had foreclosed.

According to her plea agreement, from 2012 to 2013, Halsey conspired with Daniel Whitehurst, 36, Bel Air, Maryland, an employee of a real estate development company that did business in Maryland, to defraud Cecil Bank and another bank to purchase a home through false pretenses, representations and promises.  Specifically, on March 28, 2012, Halsey and Whitehurst met at a restaurant in Cecil County.  Whitehurst asked Halsey if she could help him and a business partner get a $500,000 line of credit from Cecil Bank.  Halsey agreed to help Whitehurst to obtain a line of credit from Cecil Bank, in exchange for Whitehurst agreeing to serve as the straw purchaser of 127 Ebenezer, Rising Sun, Maryland on behalf of Halsey.  Halsey suggested that she increase the line of credit for Whitehurst to $650,000 to include the funds needed to buy the house.  Whitehurst agreed to Halsey’s request to secretly buy 127 Ebenezer on Halsey’s behalf.  On May 9, 2012, Halsey participated in a loan committee meeting at Cecil Bank that considered and approved a $650,000 line for credit for Whitehurst and a $500,000 line of credit for his business partner.

Halsey admitted that at her request, on May 14, 2012, Whitehurst visited 127 Ebenezer and provided Halsey with an estimate of the costs to update the house.  Whitehurst determined that beyond replacing the kitchen sub-flooring at a cost of about $1,000, there were no significant repairs needed.  Whitehurst provided a letter of intent to purchase the home from the bank for $150,000 for Halsey to review.  Halsey suggested lowering the price to $145,000 to allow room to increase the offer later.  Halsey knew that an exterior-only appraisal of the property ordered by Cecil Bank on November 9, 2011, showed a market value of $263,000.  A full appraisal on September 10, 2012, reflected a market value of $295,000.  To support the below-market price that Halsey wanted to pay, Whitehurst included in the letter of intent a list of lower-priced home sales in the same area that were not comparable to 127 Ebenezer and therefore was not reflective of the property’s actual market value.

As detailed in the plea agreement, on May 23, 2012, Whitehurst e-mailed Cecil Bank his offer to purchase 127 Ebenezer for $145,000.  On the same day, during a meeting of the Cecil Bank Board of Directors, Halsey advised the Board that Whitehurst had made a purchase offer of $140,000 for 127 Ebenezer, $5,000 less the actual offer.  To support the below-market price of $140,000, Halsey falsely characterized the property as having “structural deficiencies [that] will require significant repairs.”  Halsey did not disclose her personal interest in the property, nor Whitehurst’s role as her nominee to acquire the property on her behalf.  The Board authorized Halsey to “negotiate the best price.”  Thereafter, Whitehurst submitted a contract for him to purchase 127 Ebenezer from Cecil Bank for $150,000, which Halsey signed on August 17, 2012 on behalf of Cecil Bank.

According to the plea agreement, subsequent to authorizing the sale of 127 Ebenezer, Halsey told Whitehurst that he should not use his line of credit from Cecil Bank to purchase the house, but should instead get the funds from a different source.  Whitehurst applied for and obtained a $100,000 loan from another bank to purchase 127 Ebenezer, fraudulently claiming that he was purchasing the property for himself and that the down payment was from an investment account.  On October 31, 2012, prior to 127 Ebenezer going to settlement, Halsey wired $75,000 to Whitehurst’s bank account to cover the cost of the down payment as well as closing costs and upgrades to the property that Halsey directed Whitehurst to arrange.  To conceal the true purpose of the wired funds, Whitehurst sent Halsey a fictitious real estate contract purporting to show that the $75,000 was the down payment for a different property that Whitehurst owned in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

On November 21, 2012, the settlement of 127 Ebenezer was held with Halsey representing Cecil Bank as the seller, and Whitehurst as the purported purchaser, selling the property to Whitehurst for $150,000.  Both signed the HUD-1 form which falsely represented that Whitehurst had paid approximately $52,566 at settlement, when in fact, the down payment and all related closing costs were paid from the $75,000 Halsey had wired to Whitehurst’s bank account beforehand.  From October 31, 2012 through March 29, 2013, Halsey transferred an additional $60,000 to Whitehurst to cover the cost the upgrades to the house that they had previously discussed, as well as to reimburse Whitehurst for mortgage payments he made on the property.  Halsey and Whitehurst also made plans to transfer title of the property to Halsey by selling the house to her at a price that would minimize the tax consequences of the sale for Whitehurst.

In December 2012, in response to a question from a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond inquiring about the sale of the property to Whitehurst, Halsey falsely stated that she was “not totally familiar with [that] property” and that the bank had difficulty marketing the property and had not listed it with a realtor because of “issues with the county over the bonds outstanding.”

In April 2013, federal agents began interviewing employees and other borrowers about banking irregularities at Cecil Bank.  Title to 127 Ebenezer was never transferred to Halsey.  Halsey never told the bank that she was the true purchaser of 127 Ebenezer, nor did the bank know that Halsey and Whitehurst had orchestrated the sale of the foreclosed property at the fraudulent price of $150,000, instead of the appraised pre-renovation price of $295,000.

As a result of Halsey’s misrepresentations and omissions, the bank lost approximately $145,000.

Whitehurst pleaded guilty under seal to the federal charge of mail fraud on April 6, 2018.  Whitehurst faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud.  Judge Chasanow has not scheduled a date for Whitehurst’s sentencing.

Halsey pleaded guilty on July 31, 2020, Judge Chasanow also ordered Halsey to forfeit her interest in the home in Rising Sun and to pay restitution in the amount of $145,000.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Mark P. Higgins of Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Mid-Atlantic Region; Special Agent in Charge Patricia Tarasca of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC/OIG), New York Region; Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); and Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General (SBA/OIG).

Mary Beyer Halsey will now serve time in federal prison after she used her position as President and CEO of Cecil Bank for her personal benefit, causing a loss to the bank, which had already received federal taxpayer funds as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “Corrupt bank officials undermine the public’s trust in our financial system.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to investigating allegations of fraud committed by officers of financial institutions which are members of the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) because their crimes strike at the heart of the FHLBank System,” said Mark Higgins, Special Agent in Charge of the FHFA-OIG’s Mid-Atlantic Region. “We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and our law enforcement partners on this case.

Today the former CEO of Cecil Bank was sentenced to prison, becoming the 78th banker sentenced to prison resulting from a SIGTARP investigation,” said Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero. “Treasury wrote off $11 million from its TARP investment in Cecil Bank.  We commend U.S. Attorney Hur and his team of prosecutors in standing with SIGTARP to combat fraud that hurt banks during critical times.”

Cecil Bank, located in Elkton, Maryland, had received $11,560,000 in federal taxpayer funds in 2008, under the Capital Purchase Program, as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.  On April 20, 2011, Cecil Bank initiated the foreclosure of a single-family house located at 127 Ebenezer Church Road in Rising Sun.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FHFA-OIG, Mid-Atlantic Region; FDIC/OIG; SIGTARP; and SBA/OIG for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martin J. Clarke and Harry M. Gruber, who are prosecuting the case.

 

Mary Beyer Halsey, age 59, Rising Sun, Maryland, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Cecil Bank, pleaded guilty today to the federal charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, receipt of a bribe by a bank official, and false statement in bank records, in connection with the straw purchase of a home in Elkton, Maryland, upon which Cecil Bank had foreclosed.

Cecil Bank, located in Elkton, Maryland, had received $11,560,000 in federal taxpayer funds in 2008, under the Capital Purchase Program, as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. On April 20, 2011, Cecil Bank initiated the foreclosure of a single-family house located at 127 Ebenezer Church Road in Elkton.

According to her plea agreement, from 2012 to 2013, Halsey conspired with Daniel Whitehurst, an employee of a real estate development company that did business in Maryland, to defraud Cecil Bank and another bank to purchase a home through false pretenses, representations and promises. Specifically, on March 28, 2012, Halsey and Whitehurst met at a restaurant in Cecil County. Whitehurst asked Halsey if she could help him and a business partner get a $500,000 line of credit from Cecil Bank. Halsey agreed to help Whitehurst to obtain a line of credit from Cecil Bank, in exchange for Whitehurst agreeing to serve as the straw purchaser of 127 Ebenezer, Elkton, Maryland on behalf of Halsey. Halsey suggested that she increase the line of credit for Whitehurst to $650,000 to include the funds needed to buy the house. Whitehurst agreed to Halsey’s request to secretly buy 127 Ebenezer on Halsey’s behalf. On May 9, 2012, Halsey participated in a loan committee meeting at Cecil Bank that considered and approved a $650,000 line for credit for Whitehurst and a $500,000 line of credit for his business partner.

Halsey admitted that at her request, on May 14, 2012, Whitehurst visited 127 Ebenezer and provided Halsey with an estimate of the costs to update the house. Whitehurst determined that beyond replacing the kitchen subflooring at a cost of about $1,000, there were no significant repairs needed. Whitehurst provided a letter of intent to purchase the home from the bank for $150,000 for Halsey to review. Halsey suggested lowering the price to $145,000 to allow room to increase the offer later. Halsey knew that an exterior-only appraisal of the property ordered by Cecil Bank on November 9, 2011, showed a market value of $263,000. A full appraisal on September 10, 2012, reflected a market value of $295,000. To support the below-market price that Halsey wanted to pay, Whitehurst included in the letter of intent a list of lower-priced home sales in the same area that were not comparable to 127 Ebenezer and therefore was not reflective of the property’s actual market value.

As detailed in the plea agreement, on May 23, 2012, Whitehurst e-mailed Cecil Bank his offer to purchase 127 Ebenezer for $145,000. On the same day, during a meeting of the Cecil Bank Board of Directors, Halsey advised the Board that Whitehurst had made a purchase offer of $140,000 for 127 Ebenezer, $5,000 less the actual offer. To support the below-market price of $140,000, Halsey falsely characterized the property as having “structural deficiencies [that] will require significant repairs.” Halsey did not disclose her personal interest in the property, nor Whitehurst’s role as her nominee to acquire the property on her behalf. The Board authorized Halsey to “negotiate the best price.” Thereafter, Whitehurst submitted a contract for him to purchase 127 Ebenezer from Cecil Bank for $150,000, which Halsey signed on August 17, 2012 on behalf of Cecil Bank.

According to the plea agreement, subsequent to authorizing the sale of 127 Ebenezer, Halsey told Whitehurst that he should not use his line of credit from Cecil Bank to purchase the house, but should instead get the funds from a different source. Whitehurst applied for and obtained a $100,000 loan from another bank to purchase 127 Ebenezer, fraudulently claiming that he was purchasing the property for himself and that the down payment was from an investment account. On October 31, 2012, prior to 127 Ebenezer going to settlement, Halsey wired $75,000 to Whitehurst’s bank account to cover the cost of the down payment as well as closing costs and upgrades to the property that Halsey directed Whitehurst to arrange. To conceal the true purpose of the wired funds, Whitehurst sent Halsey a fictitious real estate contract purporting to show that the $75,000 was the down payment for a different property that Whitehurst owned in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

On November 21, 2012, the settlement of 127 Ebenezer was held with Halsey representing Cecil Bank as the seller, and Whitehurst as the purported purchaser, selling the property to Whitehurst for $150,000. Both signed the HUD-1 form which falsely represented that Whitehurst had paid approximately $52,566 at settlement, when in fact, the down payment and all related closing costs were paid from the $75,000 Halsey had wired to Whitehurst’s bank account beforehand. From October 31, 2012 through March 29, 2013, Halsey transferred an additional $60,000 to Whitehurst to cover the cost the upgrades to the house that they had previously discussed, as well as to reimburse Whitehurst for mortgage payments he made on the property. Halsey and Whitehurst also made plans to transfer title of the property to Halsey by selling the house to her at a price that would minimize the tax consequences of the sale for Whitehurst.

In December 2012, in response to a question from a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond inquiring about the sale of the property to Whitehurst, Halsey falsely stated that she was “not totally familiar with [that] property” and that the bank had difficulty marketing the property and had not listed it with a realtor because of “issues with the county over the bonds outstanding.”

In April 2013, federal agents began interviewing employees and other borrowers about banking irregularities at Cecil Bank. Title to 127 Ebenezer was never transferred to Halsey. Halsey never told the bank that she was the true purchaser of 127 Ebenezer, nor did the bank know that Halsey and Whitehurst had orchestrated the sale of the foreclosed property at the fraudulent price of $150,000, instead of the appraised pre-renovation price of $295,000.

As a result of Halsey’s misrepresentations and omissions, the bank lost approximately $145,000.

Halsey faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for each offense: conspiracy to commit bank fraud; false statement in bank records; and receipt of a bribe by a bank official. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for November 6, 2020 at 11:00 a.m.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Mark P. Higgins of Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Mid-Atlantic Region; Special Agent in Charge Patricia Tarasca of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC/OIG), New York Region; Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); and Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General (SBA/OIG).

Mary Beyer Halsey used her position as President and CEO of Cecil Bank for her personal benefit, causing a loss to the bank, which had already received federal taxpayer funds as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “Corrupt bank officials undermine the public’s trust in our financial system.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to investigating allegations of fraud committed by officers of financial institutions which are members of the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) because their crimes strike at the heart of the FHLBank System,” said Mark Higgins, Special Agent in Charge of the FHFA-OIG’s Mid-Atlantic Region. “We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland on this case.”

This plea illustrates the tremendous harm bank insiders can cause when they use their positions for personal gain, breaking the trust placed in them by their employees, shareholders, and customers,” said Patricia Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge, New York Region, Office of Inspector General for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. “We thank our law enforcement partners and appreciate the cooperation between investigating agencies.

Today, another bank CEO pleads guilty to committing fraud against the bank while the bank was in TARP,” said Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero. “Cecil Bank CEO Halsey pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, making false statements in bank records, and receiving a bribe in a fraud that caused losses to Cecil Bank. Taxpayers lost nearly $11 million in TARP when Cecil Bank failed. SIGTARP commends U.S. Attorney Robert Hur and his team for fighting financial fraud related to TARP.”

OIG and its law enforcement partners are poised to root out fraud and bring wrongdoers to justice,” said SBA Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware. “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”

Daniel Whitehurst, age 36, Bel Air, Maryland, pleaded guilty under seal to the federal charge of mail fraud on April 6, 2018. Whitehurst faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Judge Chasanow has not scheduled a date for Whitehurst’s sentencing.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FHFA-OIG, Mid-Atlantic Region; FDIC/OIG; SIGTARP; and SBA/OIG for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martin J. Clarke and Harry M. Gruber, who are prosecuting the case

Michelle Sylethia Jordan, a/k/a Michelle Harris and Michelle Welsh, 49; and her husband, Michael Paul Anthony Welsh, a/k/a Michael A. Welsh and Michael Paul S. Welsh, 45, both of Laurel, Maryland, were sentenced yesterday to 57 months and 46 months in federal prison, respectively, each followed by three years of supervise release, on conspiracy and wire fraud charges in connection with a foreclosure prevention fraud scheme.

According to the evidence presented at their eight-day trial, Jordan was chief executive officer and director of MJ Loan Auditor Group, LLC (MJLAG), a limited liability company registered and doing business in Maryland.  Welsh was president and chief executive officer of MJLAG.  Jackson was the owner and manager of CJ Maxx Group LLC, a limited liability company doing business in Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia.

Trial evidence proved that from August 2012 until February 2017, Jordan and Welsh falsely told victim homeowners that, for a fee, MJLAG could help these homeowners modify their mortgage loans and prevent foreclosure of their homes.  Jordan and Welsh falsely represented that MJLAG could help the homeowners get “free and clear” title to their homes, with no debt or liens against the property, and that MJLAG could obtain money from the homeowners’ lenders, typically by suing the lenders.  Jordan and Welsh told homeowners that they needed to purchase one or more “audits” of the homeowners’ mortgage loans in order to uncover fraud and alleged illegal acts committed by the lenders, and that these “audits” could be used as evidence in lawsuits against the lenders and in negotiating for a loan modification.

Witnesses testified that as part of the scheme, Jordan and Welsh had homeowners sign a “contract fee agreement” setting out what fees would be charged for the “audit.”  The contract fee agreement contained the seal of the National Association of Mortgage Underwriters (NAMU), even though the defendants and their companies had no current affiliation with NAMU.  Jordan advised clients to submit baseless complaints about their lender to state and federal agencies, file frivolous lawsuits in local courts, and to stop paying their mortgages.  Jordan further advised MJLAG clients whose homes already were in foreclosure proceedings to file for bankruptcy in order to delay the foreclosure proceedings and as part of the process to prevent foreclosure of the clients’ homes.  Jordan assisted MJLAG clients in filing for bankruptcy, by preparing bankruptcy petitions and related documents and court filings.

The evidence proved that Jordan and Welsh paid Jackson to prepare fraudulent documents purporting to be “Forensic Audit Reports” and “Real Estate Securitization Audits” relating to loans for properties owned by MJLAG clients.  The victim homeowners paid money to MJLAG with the expectation of receiving assistance with modifying their mortgage loans and preventing foreclosure of their homes.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced co-conspirator, Carrol Antonio Jackson, a/k/a Jack Jackson, 48, of Hinesville, Georgia, to time served, followed by nine months of home detention as part of three years of supervised release.  Finally, Judge Titus ordered that each defendant pay restitution of $491,036.87.  A federal jury convicted the three co-conspirators on June 20, 2018.  http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=jordan After the verdict was announced, Judge Titus ordered that Jordan and Welsh be detained pending sentencing and they were immediately taken into custody.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG); Special Agent in Charge Bertrand Nelson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG); Postal Inspector in Charge Peter Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; Chief Henry P. Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Sheriff Steve Sikes of the Liberty County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office; and Vernon M. Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FHFA-OIG, HUD-OIG, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, Liberty County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their work in the investigation, and recognized the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations for its assistance.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristi N. O’Malley and Nicolas A. Mitchell, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Boison, who prosecuted the case.

Michelle Sylethia Jordan, a/k/a Michelle Harris and Michelle Welsh, 49; her husband, Michael Paul Anthony Welsh, a/k/a Michael A. Welsh and Michael Paul S. Welsh, 45, both of Laurel, Maryland; and Carrol Antonio Jackson, a/k/a Jack Jackson, 48, Hinesville, Georgia, were convicted on June 20, 2018 of conspiracy and mail and wire fraud charges in connection with a foreclosure prevention fraud scheme.

According to the evidence presented at the eight-day trial, Jordan was chief executive officer and director of MJ Loan Auditor Group, LLC (MJLAG), a limited liability company registered and doing business in Maryland.  Welsh was the president, vice president, and director of MJLAG.  Jackson was the owner and manager of CJ Maxx Group LLC, a limited liability company doing business in Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia.

The evidence showed that from August 2012 until February 2017, Jordan and Welsh falsely told victim homeowners that, for a fee, MJLAG could help these homeowners modify their mortgage loans and prevent foreclosure of their homes.  Jordan and Welsh falsely represented that MJLAG could help the homeowners get “free and clear” title to their homes, with no debt or liens against the property, and that MJLAG could obtain money from the homeowners’ lenders, typically by suing the lenders.  Jordan and Welsh told homeowners that they needed to purchase one or more “audits” of the homeowners’ mortgage loans in order to uncover fraud and alleged illegal acts committed by the lenders, and that these “audits” could be used as evidence in lawsuits against the lenders and in negotiating for a loan modification.

Witnesses testified that as part of the scheme, Jordan and Welsh had homeowners sign a “contract fee agreement” setting out what fees would be charged for the “audit.”  The contract fee agreement contained the seal of the National Association of Mortgage Underwriters (NAMU), even though the defendants and their companies had no current affiliation with NAMU.  Jordan advised clients to submit baseless complaints about their lender to state and federal agencies, and to stop paying their mortgages.  Jordan further advised MJLAG clients whose homes already were in foreclosure proceedings to file for bankruptcy in order to delay the foreclosure proceedings and as part of the process to prevent foreclosure of the clients’ homes.  Jordan assisted MJLAG clients in filing for bankruptcy, by preparing bankruptcy petitions and related documents and court filings.

The evidence proved that Jordan and Welsh paid Jackson to prepare fraudulent documents purporting to be “Forensic Audit Reports” and “Real Estate Securitization Audits” relating to loans for properties owned by MJLAG clients.  The victim homeowners paid money to MJLAG with the expectation of receiving assistance with modifying their mortgage loans and preventing foreclosure of their homes.

The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud, and 20 years in prison for each of ten counts of wire fraud.  U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for September 28, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.

After the verdict was announced, U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus ordered that Jordan and Welsh be detained pending sentencing and they were immediately taken into custody.

The conviction was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG); Special Agent in Charge Bertrand Nelson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG); Postal Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; Chief Henry P. Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Sheriff Steve Sikes of the Liberty County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office; and Vernon M. Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The Maryland Mortgage Fraud Task Force was established to unify the agencies that regulate and investigate mortgage fraud and promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of mortgage fraud schemes.  This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to protect consumers from fraud and promote the integrity of the credit markets.  Information about mortgage fraud prosecutions is available http://www.justice.gov/usao-md/financial-fraud-and-identity-theft.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FHFA-OIG, HUD-OIG, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, Liberty County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their work in the investigation, and recognized the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations for its assistance.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristi N. O’Malley and Nicolas A. Mitchell, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Boison, who are prosecuting the case.

 

Nationstar Mortgage LLC has entered into settlement agreements with the Consumer Protection Division and the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to resolve allegations that it charged homeowners illegal inspection fees.

Nationstar, the nation’s largest non-bank servicer of home mortgages, arranges for property inspections in order to protect the interests of mortgage lenders when homeowners are in default on their payments. Although Maryland law prohibits passing the cost of these inspections onto homeowners, Nationstar allegedly charged the inspection costs to homeowners until January 1, 2014 for forward loans and February 2016 for reverse mortgages. Nationstar assessed Maryland homeowners over $1 million in inspection fees.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh made the announcement today.

These inspection charges violate state law,” said Attorney General Frosh. “They were performed for the benefit of the lenders, not the benefit of the homeowners. We are pleased that the victims of the illegal charges will be made whole.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Nationstar agrees to:

  • not collect inspection fees in the future,
  • return over $260,000 in fees in addition to $827,759 that it returned during the Division’s investigation, and
  • pay the Division close to $490,000 in penalties and $10,000 in costs.

The Commissioner of Financial Regulation, who licenses Nationstar, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding contemporaneously with the Consumer Protection Division’s settlement.